Baofeng Radio Without A Licence

“Can I use a Baofeng handheld without a licence?” This is one of our most common questions. Here’s our answer, which applies to UK usage:

What is a Baofeng?

It’s a brand name for a very popular make of cheap handheld radio, favoured by radio amateurs and other radio enthusiasts.

Common models include the Baofeng UV-5R , Baofeng UV-B6 and the Baofeng 888

Can I use it for amateur radio?

Baofeng UV-5R Handheld
Baofeng UV-5R Handheld

Yes, if you have a licence. Many amateurs use Baofeng, as they are cheap and powerful handhelds.

You can legally listen to amateur radio on a Baofeng, but to transmit, you need a valid amateur radio licence from Ofcom. This requires you to take the UK amateur radio “Foundation” licence. Typically, this involves about 6 hours of study, completing a few basic practical exercises, and taking a multiple-choice theory test. You can study with the help of a local amateur radio club, or online (with our Foundation Online course). There’s a fee to sit the exam (£27.50 as of 2020) and the Ofcom licence itself is free.

Once you have your licence, you can use a handheld radio on the frequency range 144 to 146MHz, and 430 to 440MHz, which are allocated for amateur radio use. Radios like the popular Baofeng UV-5R can access both of these ranges.

It is perfectly legal to listen to amateur radio on a Baofeng without a licence.

Can I use it for PMR 446MHz?

Legally, no.

Licence-free consumer short-range “walkie talkie” handhelds that you can buy on the high street are generallly known as “PMR” (Private Mobile Radio) and in the UK use the frequency range 446.0 to 446.2MHz. Provided that the radio equipment complies with certain technical requirements, it can be used without a licence.

Technically, Baofengs can be programmed to work on the UK PMR frequencies (446MHz), however, it’s not legal to transmit on those frequencies using a Baofeng. Here’s why: PMR446 equipment is not permitted to transmit over a maximum power of 0.5 watts. Baofeng radios normally transmit at 5 watts, or 8 watts. Some Baofengs do have a low-power setting, but this is at least 1 watt (or more), so even on low power, they transmit more power than is legal in the UK for the PMR446 allocation.

Many argue that no-one will know (or care) if you transmit 1 watt instead of 0.5 watts, and anyone doing so does so at their own risk, but the official answer as we understand it, is “No – you can’t use a Baofeng legally on 446MHz if it is exceeding 0.5 watts on transmit”. It is perfectly legal to listen to PMR446 on a Baofeng handheld though.

Note there are other restrictions for equipment that’s used for PMR446 – Notably that the radio must have a fixed antenna (one that can’t be removed) and must comply with certain technical standards defined in the Ofcom guidance documents (as identified by the CE Mark).

More reading: Ofcom’s PMR446 Information Sheet


Can I use it for Ofcom Business Licence?

If you want to use Baofeng radios legally, and don’t want an amateur radio licence, then this is another option – The Ofcom Business Simple UK Licence. At the time of writing, this is available online from Ofcom – £75 for 5 years. Apply online here. You can take out a licence for a company, individual, as a sole trader, or as a group/charity.

With this licence, you’ll be allowed to use a selection of frequencies in the 164MHz, 169Mhz, 173Mhz and 449MHz ranges. Power limit for this licence is 5 watts, the standard power for most Baofeng models.

Are there any frequencies I can transmit on without a licence?

No. Not legally.

Listening using a Baofeng Radio?

You can use a Baofeng to listen to amateur radio. We have a page on the subject – See Listening in to amateur radio.



Hopefully, that’s helped. If you have any questions, please ask below…

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